By Colleen Honquest
Dear Mr. or Ms. Lawyer,
I am writing you this letter to help you understand why I may be having difficulties with this divorce process. This will not be one of your normal cases. My ex most likely has a personality disorder. He has abused me—for years—and is intentionally attempting to destroy me now.
I may seem flustered and traumatized, at times, but I am not irrational, lazy, or obstinate. I am having a normal reaction to profound betrayal. This is trauma and it may be further perpetuated in court if you are not aware of how to deal with my husband in this case.
I have been abused by my husband for years now. Trying to leave has made him ramp up his attacks as he tries to provoke me. There are no limits as to what he will throw at this fight in the form of money or false allegations in court as he publicly humiliates me. He has told me that he will do whatever it takes to destroy me. I need you to understand what his ongoing abuse has done to me and how it will affect my case.
I can’t sort things out very well anymore and I have trouble making decisions and doing simple things. Dealing with confrontation and all of the decisions that I will have to make will be very hard. Please make things very clear to me so that I don’t have knee-jerk reactions and cave under the stress of it all. I need boundaries between him and me so that I can focus on going forward and helping you put together your case. I need specific direction and strategies. I need you to fight for me and to understand that my husband will try to create chaos and confusion at every step of the way.
My husband tells me that everyone thinks that I am crazy. My husband has ruined many of my relationships and harassed my co-workers, my manager, and even the senior legal counsel at my work. He began a fear campaign, long ago, to chip away at my credibility at work and in my community. He told me that if I file for divorce, he will make sure that everyone at my job knows “all about me”. He has threatened to have my manager deposed and he is constantly belittling me as a mother. He has smashed my work computer in a fit of rage in front of my toddler because I was not focusing enough on him. I have gone from a highly competent and top salesperson for my company to barely functioning and struggling to keep up with even basic demands at work.
I am not sure what exactly the Judge will care about in our case and what will matter in court. I am relying on you to explain to me (sometimes several times) what is going to happen and how we can strategize to achieve my goals for my future.
I don’t know if you can understand how I feel when I am forced to be in the same room with my husband. He leers at me and I can feel his eyes trying to pierce through me. Then he will lean over and whisper in his lawyer’s ear and laugh just loud enough for me to hear. My nervous system responds to this stress just like I’m in the middle of one of the many abusive incidents at home and I just want to run out the door. I need an advocate who can accompany me to court and make sure that my personal boundaries are protected.
If you ask me document something, I will be hyper-vigilant and spend hours working on gathering documents and details. I need you to tell me exactly what is important and what is not as I need to reserve my energy and focus for my kids and my job. I want to help but I am already completely drained, and the stress of this process will make things worse at times.
Help me to base my decisions on fact instead of fear so that I can ensure peace for my family in the future. I can’t come back to court later if something is vaguely addressed in my Joint Parenting Agreement or Marital Settlement Agreement so please don’t say things like, “We’ll deal with that later. You can always come back to court.” This court battle needs to be my last. I have been deceived, betrayed, and physically, financially, and emotionally drained by him.
I know that he will actively engage in thwarting any justice or help from the court that I may be hoping to achieve. I trust that you will do your best to not get caught up in the needless back and forth on minute issues that are not the focus of my case. My husband’s favorite tool is to distract and confuse everyone around him. I don’t expect to receive emotional justice in court. I am hoping to achieve clear and concise parenting and marital settlement documents that will enable me to move forward. I would just like to be able to parent my children and achieve some level of peace and sanity in my life.